U.S.CONSUMER PRODUCT SAFETY COMMISSION (CPSC)
The Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) was created in 1972 when Congress passed the Consumer Product Safety Act to protect the public “against unreasonable risks of injuries associated with consumer products.”1 The CPSC began its oversight in 1973. As an independent agency, the CPSC doesn’t report to any federal department or agency. Three commissioners, nominated by the President and confirmed by the Senate head CPSC, each serving seven-year terms. The President designates one as Chairman. Currently, Nancy Nord is acting Chairman. The following organizational chart shows the scope of the CPSC’s jurisdiction. 1
Uniformity of standards was one of several reasons that Congress created the CPSC in 1972. Prior to the CPSC, which became active in 1973, consumer product safety was regulated at the state level. Needless to say, fifty individual sets of regulations resulted in a wide discrepancy in standards. These were not only numerous, but also frequently conflicted with one another, creating additional problems as manufacturers tried to keep costs down, and improve safety as defined by different states through contradictory regulations.
This law and the creation of the CPSC, effectively, standardized safety regulations imposed on manufacturers to common federal sets of standards.2
Additionally, the 1972 law was intended to eliminate conflicting requirements and prevent states from regulating any product covered by CPSC jurisdiction, as well as to regulate certain factors omitted by previous state level regulations. Among the new law’s features absent at the state level, CPSC was entrusted with the responsibility of balancing the cost of meeting these standards with the intended gains in safety, promotion of public good and minimal disruptions to the economy.
The Consumer Product Safety Commission has jurisdiction over about 15,000 types of consumer products that fall into school or household use, sports, and recreation categories. These can be small and large appliances, toys, furniture, fixtures, outdoor products like grills and pools, and even fireworks.
While CPSC doesn’t test, certify or recommend products or brands for safety, they do tell consumers what safety features to look for, and cooperates with manufacturers in announcing recalls.l Manufacturers recall products that present a significant risk to consumers. Reasons include defects as well as violations of CPSC standards.3
In some circles, the year 2007 has been tagged the “year of the recall.” With 2007 recalls topping 25 million toys, not to mention cribs, household goods and other products, CPSC claims that consumer products, including toys, “are safer than they have ever been.” The fact that products are recalled and recalls are announced testifies to the success of the agency’s effectiveness. Still, some household fixtures and consumer products pose dangers; lead levels are often found to be too high; fire retardant exposure puts children at risk; and choking hazards are still a major cause of toy recalls.
Recalls don’t always mean those products are no longer useful. Usually, the recommendation is to stop using the product and to dispose of it, but it may be exchangeable, or simply need a replacement part. But, it’s best not to guess. When a product is recalled follow the CPSC’s announced recommendations on what to do with that product, even if you learn about the recall long after it was announced. There are no expiration dates to recalls. If a solution to the problem is available from the manufacturer, contact the company’s number. A toll-free number is usually given in the CPSC news release.1
Sites such as US Recall News publish articles about current recalls as well as updates to previous ones. For instance, have you ever wondered if it’s safe, yet, to buy previously recalled brands of pet food? Sites such as http://www.usrecallnews.com also offer subscriptions that will send news of recalls by email to you on a regular basis. For safety information related to other types of products, such as automobiles, food, and pharmaceuticals. Other Federal consumer links are found at http://www.cpsc.gov/federal.html.
CONTACTING THE CONSUMER PRODUCT SAFETY COMMISSION
You may also contact the CPSC directly at (301) 504-7923 or at their toll-free hotline (800/638-2772)
by mail at:
U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission
4330 East West Highway
Bethesda, MD 20814
or send an e-mail via CPSC’s online forms for reporting unsafe products, which can be found at http://www.cpsc.gov/cgibin/info.aspx.
CPSC’s home page at www.cpsc.gov posts the latest recalls, and links to related information, and to the Public Calendar where you can see what issues are being brought up for resolution.
2 “Consumer Product Safety Act,” P.L. 92-573 (1972), § 2 and § 9(c)